Belichick on Mason: One of most athletic OL I've seen


Belichick on Mason: One of most athletic OL I've seen


FOXBORO -- It has quickly become a staple of the Patriots running game, something that opposing defenses can expect to see just about every week. 

In fact, the Titans defense saw it on their host's first play from scrimmage on Sunday: Rookie offensive lineman Shaq Mason pulling from his spot at left guard, looking for collision.

The 6-foot-1, 300-pounder entered into the NFL with an advanced skill set as it pertained to run-blocking since that was the bulk of what he was asked to do during his time in Georgia Tech's option offense. And since Week 1, when he played 36 of 61 offensive snaps as part of a rotation on the interior, the Patriots have taken advantage of his ability to get out of his stance, get on the move, and smother his target.

On New England's first offensive play on Sunday, Mason ran down the line of scrimmage -- staying tight to the backs of his teammates on the offensive line so as not to waste any motion -- and wiped out linebacker Avery Williamson who was engaged with Marcus Cannon. Running back Brandon Bolden picked up nine yards as a result, and the Patriots offense had established a physical tone for the afternoon. 

As the year has worn on, Mason has made strides in pass protection -- earlier this season, Patriots coach Bill Belichick admitted that was an area where Mason was likely deficient due to his college offense -- but it was his athleticism in the running game that earned the 22-year-old praise from his head coach during a conference call on Tuesday. 

"He’s probably one of the most athletic players, one of the most athletic offensive linemen I’ve coached," Belichick said. "He would certainly be in that upper category and upper part of that conversation. He runs well. He’s got very good balance and short-space quickness and is light on his feet.

"Fundamentally and technique-wise there are a lot of things that he still needs to work on, and Shaq has improved a lot, but there are still things for him to work on, things he can do better and do more consistently. But just in terms of athleticism, balance, speed, quickness, he’s very good, very, very talented, and he’s got good power and playing strength and explosion, too. Those are all positives with him."

Mason has been part of a rookie class that has provided the Patriots with significant production this season. He has started nine games at left guard, while fellow 2015 fourth-round draft pick Tre' Jackson has started seven, and undrafted free agent rookie center David Andrews has started 11. Malcom Brown has been the team's most frequently used interior defensive lineman, while Jordan Richards, Geneo Grissom and Joe Cardona have played significant roles in the kicking game. 

Belichick lauded this year's entire rookie class for its work ethic, especially off the field. 

"I think overall it’s been a real good group," he said. "Those guys have really come in and done everything we’ve asked them to do. We’ve had a lot of groups, had a lot of players fall into this category, but I would say as a total group, these guys have been as good, if not better, than any group we’ve had off the field in terms of their preparation, doing what they’re asked to do, doing what they’ve been told to do, improving, paying attention to the little things, trying to do the right thing for the team, all those things.

"I mean each individual player’s characteristics and performance, those are all kind of separate discussions, although I think overall we’ve gotten contributions from that group, but each one individually has a little different dynamic. But as a total group and the chemistry that they have with each other and with the team has been very good. It’s been great. It’s been great."

Patriots' Phillip Dorsett remembers former Colts QB Andrew Luck as an 'amazing teammate'

Patriots' Phillip Dorsett remembers former Colts QB Andrew Luck as an 'amazing teammate'

FOXBORO – Phillip Dorsett spent his first two NFL seasons with Andrew Luck in Indianapolis.

He, like the rest of the football-watching world, was left wide-eyed Saturday night when he learned Luck was retiring at 29.

“I was shocked,” said Dorsett, who said he fell asleep watching football then woke up to see the news on social media. “I thought it was a joke. But then I saw it come on the ticker and I said, ‘Wow, it’s serious.’ ”

The reverberations around the league from Luck’s retirement will be felt everywhere from the balance of power in the AFC to the fact that it’s another young player who’s been laid low by the mental and physical toll the game exacts. 

Beyond the timing of the announcement and the talent of the player is the fact that a smart, earnest and admirable person is leaving the game at an age we would all consider too young.

“He was an amazing teammate,” said Dorsett. “Great guy to be around. Always full of joy. Nothing but respect for Andrew. I love him. He’s a good dude. But it is what it is. It’s football. I can’t sit here and say I know what he was going through because nobody does. But I know it’s tough on him, I know he didn’t want to walk away but he had to do what he had to do for himself."

There are unmistakable parallels to be drawn between Luck and Rob Gronkowski. Both talked of the mental fatigue of trying to get their bodies tuned up just to be betrayed by them.

With both men, the conversation about whether or not they’ll stay retired quickly followed. There’s a presumption they’ll change their minds at some point when their bodies feel better.

Maybe they will. But in order for either player to come back, both will have to get to a point where they feel the competition, camaraderie, financial reward and everything else are worth the cost of playing again.

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Demaryius Thomas confident he can produce at a high level: "I still can go"

Demaryius Thomas confident he can produce at a high level: "I still can go"

FOXBORO – Demaryius Thomas and Tom Brady seem to have become fast friends, at least judging by the amount of time they were seen on the sidelines last week talking and laughing during the team’s preseason game with the Panthers.

To hear Thomas talk on Sunday, you can appreciate why Brady might be a fan.

Speaking for the first time since joining the Patriots as a free agent in April, Thomas stressed again and again that Job No. 1 is being someone Brady can trust.  

“Being dependable and consistent,” said Thomas when asked what he needed to provide the quarterback. “Those two things are the biggest things you can do for a quarterback. Being consistent and dependable.”

Which is precisely what Brady is looking for as a revamped fleet of receivers and tight ends keep trying to get up to speed with the Patriots before the opener September 8.

Thomas, who’s coming back from an Achilles tear suffered at the end of 2018, sounded very confident in his ability to play at the same level he always has.

“I still can go,” said Thomas, who took part in his first full practice last Tuesday. “I still can go. Like I said, knock a little rust off and just keep hitting the days.”

So the explosion is there?

“I can feel it,” he said. “I can feel it certain days and certain days I can’t. It’s a thing that I feel when I play and I still got it. I touched it here and there but some days some stuff it bothers (me).

“I don’t think it’s a crazy challenge (to get back to a high level),” he said. “I think it’s a challenge to me to keep going out and doing what I’ve done my whole career. It’s a tougher challenge because here they expect more and it’s a little different than where I’ve been but I’ll be all right.”

The 31-year-old Thomas said he still “getting the hang of” the Patriots offense but said his time with the Houston Texans and former Patriots offensive coordinator Bill O’Brien last season helped him get a grasp on some of the concepts New England uses.

There’s still a couple of things I have to pick up but so far so good,” he said. “I’m just trying to fit in where I can and ask as many questions as I can.”

Thomas said he consults everyone – from Julian Edelman to the running backs to defensive players – for assistance on the little things that will help him be ready to contribute.

The essence of his job, he said, is “being in the right spot and catching the ball.”

“I still got some work to do but it’s getting better and better, I’m learning a lot,” he said. “Everything (Brady) tells me I’m taking in and same with Coach McDaniels. Everything they tell me I try to take the field.”

The Patriots wide receiver depth chart is a little murky. Edelman is at the top of it but rookie N’Keal Harry has been down for nearly two weeks. Undrafted rookie Jakobi Meyers has had an outstanding camp and preseason but still has a ways to go before he’s got full command. Phillip Dorsett is dependable but is more a complementary piece. And Josh Gordon just took part in his first full practice Sunday.

Thomas appreciates what Brady needs and also the work the quarterback puts in.  Asked what surprised him about Brady, Thomas said, “Just being able to be around him and learn the game. Sit beside him and see him go through the things he does before practice and see him be able to do it at the age he is. He’s still got zip on the ball and still the best in the game at what he does.”

As for being in New England, Thomas said, “It’s different. The way they go about it, I see why they win so much. Everybody do their job. Nobody try to do too much.”

If Thomas can do the two things he mentioned – be in the right spot and catch the ball – that will be plenty for Brady.

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